Baby Wash Causes False Positives for Cannabis in Infants
Tragically, dozens of parents across the U.S. have been falsely prosecuted for exposing their newborns to cannabis. Fortunately, researchers at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and UNC Hospitals discovered the real culprit, which was actually a skin cleanser. The heart rending part is that some mothers lost their children over this. Yet another example of why we must end reefer madness now.
Catherine A. Hammett-Stabler, PhD, professor of pathology and laboratory medicine and executive director of the Core Laboratory of the William W. McLendon Clinical Laboratories at UNC Hospitals, coauthored an article detailing the chain of events that led to the discovery. The article appeared in the June issue of Clinical Biochemistry.
In July of 2011, nurses, concerned with all the infants testing positive for THC, reached out to the clinical lab at UNC Hospital in an effort to uncover the cause. Upon further testing, the team discovered that the infants’ stool samples were negative for THC, while urine samples from the same infants tested positive. A total of 22 false positive cases were discovered.
Hammett-Stabler believed something was finding its way into the sample, so she asked, “What are you putting on the babies’ skin?’ because something was getting into the samples and interfering with the screening method.” After a comprehensive examination of all product used in the nursery, the team honed in on the baby wash. According to Hammett-Stabler, her team:
went to the drugstore and bought every example of baby wash on the shelves. We acquired some of the chemicals used to make up the baby washes including all that were in the products that gave the positive response. We identified some of the chemicals, some of the detergents that were doing this, but exactly how that happe
ns, what the mechanism might be, we don’t know. Structurally, these things don’t look like marijuana metabolites, but clearly they are being recognized by the antibodies used in the immunoassay. And when testing those reagents in increasing concentrations we did see a positive response, albeit really low, just over the point of positive.
Carl J. Seashore, MD, coauthor of the study, associate professor of pediatrics at UNC, and director of the Newborn Nursery where the alarm was first raised, had this to say, “Our findings in this study drive home the point that confirmation bymore sophisticated methods such as mass spectrometry should be considered before moving ahead with interventions such as child social services or child abuse allegations, which may be false.”
If you know of anyone who has been falsely prosecuted for or accused of exposing their newborn to marijuana, please let them know they are not alone, and that tests can be done to exonerate them. Ultimately, none of this would have happened if hospitals stopped reacting so harshly to positive test results for THC, and focused on practicing good medicine, rather than yanking babies away from their mothers.